Home phones could see kind of renaissance

The death of the landline has been well-documented for years, as cellphones have become the primary phone for the majority of Americans. But now, thanks to tech companies’ obsession with the smart home, the home phone is making a comeback.

Well, sort of. Google has added hands-free calling to its Google Home smart speaker and Home Hub. Anyone with a Home Hub will now be able to use the device as a stand-alone speakerphone. You can have it call someone in your Google account’s contacts list, for example, or have it call the “nearest florist.”

The Google Home won’t necessarily have its own phone number; right now, calls placed through Home will show up in caller ID as unknown numbers. But users will eventually be able to display their mobile numbers on the Home. Those with Google Voice or Project FI can assign those numbers to the Home.

The calls, which are free, are not tied to your smartphone, meaning you could actually call a different contact on each device at the same time. The Google Home can also distinguish between voices, meaning that it should be able to call the right “Mom” based on whether you or your kids are making that request.

Google now joins Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung in powering smart speakers with calling capabilities.



You can still transfer those old VHS tapes

If you have procrastinated on moving over VHS footage to other formats, it’s not too late. The Roxio Easy VHS to DVD device for Mac and Windows suits most needs. Take the video- and audio-out cables from the analog device and connect them to the transfer device, which has color-coded inputs and a USB 2 cable. Plug the USB cable into a port on the computer and install the software, which is intuitive enough that you don’t have to read the short manual.

Then turn the VCR or other device on, click the “record” icon on your PC, press “play” on the VCR, and you are in business. Video footage is displayed in a window on the PC’s monitor. Scenes can be cut as they are played. The device captures sound, too. But a caveat, if the video is old and grainy, it still will be blurry after the transfer. There are some costs to procrastination.